Two of Jamaica's most popular DJs sat down with the country's prime minister Tuesday, a rare face-to-face meeting between warring musicians whose rivalry promotes violence, police say.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding requested the session with Adijah (Vybz Kartel) Palmer and David (Mavado) Brooks as the number of homicides on the Caribbean island approaches the record 1,674 set four years ago.
Nearly 1,600 slayings have been reported so far this year — in a country of 2.8 million people — and police contend the DJs' factions are gangs that use their rivalry as an excuse to commit crimes.
The two DJs agreed to hold a peace concert and remove graffiti encouraging their rivalry, among other things, said Bishop Herro Blair of the Faith Deliverance Centre church, who attended the private meeting along with the government's ministers of education and national security.
"We had a very frank discussion about what we expect from our artists," Blair said. "They have agreed to join and try to defuse the matter."
The rivalry between Kartel and Mavado began four years ago, but it has intensified since late last year. Graffiti across Jamaica has fuelled the feud, with their factions' nicknames — "Gaza" and "Gully"— increasingly scrawled on sidewalks, overpasses and abandoned buildings.
Gaza refers to the working-class town of Portmore, where Kartel hails from. Gully, which gets its name from a group of shacks along a stretch of gullies, is the Cassava Piece neighbourhood in St. Andrew parish, where Mavado was born.
The majority of Gaza and Gully supporters are dancehall fans from poor communities, but they also include the world's fastest man, sprinter Usain Bolt. The triple Olympic gold medallist recently announced his support for Gaza and invited Kartel to sing at a fundraising dance Sunday.
Both Kartel and Mavado are known for violent and sexually explicit lyrics and have been arrested on several charges — including assault and illegal gun possession — that were later dropped.
Neither DJ could be reached for comment after the meeting at the prime minister's office.
Kartel has told local media his differences with Mavado are strictly musical. Mavado played down the rivalry in a recent newspaper interview. "I just want the youths who say 'Gully' or 'Gaza' to know that it's just music," he was quoted as saying.